Who needs a paper trail in the digital age? It's certainly a question in health care, an industry synonymous with paperwork and manila folders. It's estimated that 95 percent of U.S. physician practices still store years' worth of patient records that way.
There's a huge market waiting for entrepreneurs who can help medical professionals convert paper to pixels while complying with HIPAA regulations. "It's a red-hot area," says Monte Regier, 40, president of Infomedx Inc., a 22-employee Seattle start-up that helps hospitals and physician practices store medical records electronically. "The patient chart is the most valuable thing a doctor has," he explains. It's also expensive: The health-care industry spends $1.2 billion annually on file storage alone.
|COMPANY: Infomedx Inc.|
PRESIDENT: Monte Regier, 40
NICHE: Helps hospitals and physician practices store medical records electronically
2001 SALES: $1.5 million
Infomedx's service, iRetrieve, lets doctors create electronic patient charts that are stored on a protected server. Doctors can use computers to retrieve, send and share digital or scanned images of patient documents. The product is also HIPAA-compliant, and Infomedx maintains the system so doctors don't have to worry about software updates. They might also save some money. Physicians' offices can pay $8 to $15 for delivery of a file stored off-site, while Infomedx will scan them for $6 to $7, Regier says.
To date, Infomedx has signed 35 practices in three states and one large Seattle hospital. Sales were $1.5 million last year, and the company hopes to grow 300 percent over the next few years. Regier's future plans include offering digital diagnostic chart services as well as a special e-mail package for physicians--an important step, because doctors are prohibited from using everyday e-mail to transmit patient information.
"There's a huge market waiting for entrepreneurs who can help medical professionals convert paper to pixels."
If you've got a health-care technology idea, be aware doctors can be a hard sell. "Doctors haven't embraced technology because it hasn't solved their problems," Regier says.
Sales within the medical community also tend to occur through word-of-mouth, which can make the time to profitability longer. Infomedx took in $2.5 million in investments before it made its first sale.
Understand the industry, know how your product or service will help potential clients, and start small, suggests Regier. "There are offices everywhere that are willing to try [new] things," he says. "Build your first customer. He'll bring you the next three."
Chris Penttila is a Washington, DC-based freelance journalist who covers workplace issues on her blog, Workplacediva.blogspot.com.